It was one down and two areas of concern to go for UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux on Day 2 of Major League Baseball’s draft.
The first chip the Ragin’ Cajuns program expected to fall indeed toppled over with junior outfielder Todd Lott getting drafted with the 275th overall selection in the ninth round by the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday.
Lott became the third Cajun drafted in the ninth round over the past two seasons with pitchers Logan Stoelke and Nick Lee going in the ninth round a year ago — behind Hogan Harris in the third and ahead of Colten Schmidt in the 23rd round.
Now UL’s focus shifts to senior left-hander Gunner Leger getting a team to draft him despite throwing only 28.1 innings over the past two seasons, and then to monitoring if any members of the staff's incoming signing class get selected.
Lott’s junior season began slowly, but the 6-4, 235-pounder from Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., simply torched Sun Belt pitching down the stretch.
He finished the season hitting .332 with nine doubles, eight homers, 48 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
According to mlb.com, the approximate pick value of Lott’s selection is $152,000.
The only question about Lott entering the draft was position as he was primarily a designated hitter at UL. Robichaux suggests, though, that more doors could be open for Lott at the professional level.
“That’s the unique thing about professional baseball,” Robichaux said. “Some players carry the tag that he’s a better pro player than a college player. If you’re questionable position-wise, they have the ability in rookie ball or low-A ball to play you every day at a certain position and sometimes guys will improve that way.
“Those are developmental levels. If a catcher has 30 to 40 passed balls, they don’t care. If I put my shortstop out there and he makes 25 errors, they’re going to run me and the kid out of town. But you can let him go to pro ball and do that.”
UL's focus is a little more complicated on Day 3 of the draft Wednesday with rounds 11 through 40 when Cajun fans hope to hear Leger's name called.
As a freshman, the southpaw was 6-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 114.1 innings. As a sophomore, he was 7-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 91.2 innings. After his 2017 junior season of 10-2 with a 1.97 ERA in 91.1 innings, Leger was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 26th round.
Instead he redshirted in 2018 in hopes of returning to form this past spring. But his recovery didn’t allow that to transpire, limiting the former Barbe High School pitcher to a 1-3 record with three saves and a 2.54 ERA in 28.1 innings.
“At the end of the day, Gunner’s going to get better and he’s not going to forget how to pitch,” Robichaux said. “If someone can get him through medicals, they can sign him this year and have him ready for next year. You’re getting a guy with very high pitchability. In one game, he was up to 90 and 91 (mph).
“It’s going to have to come from a team that has seen Gunner good and has seen Gunner over time. You know his work ethic isn’t an issue. You know he’s not going to forget how to pitch. And you know he’s going to continue to get healthy and get better.”
As for the incoming class, Robichaux said he’s most worried about right-handed pitcher Conor Angel of Northwest Florida State College and freshman catcher Julian Brock of Fulshear High in Texas.
“(Angel) has been up to 95-96 (mph) and you know how velocity plays,” Robichaux said. “Brock is a big, physical catcher. He’s got the physicality already. And those are two premium positions.”